Alyson Reidy owns and operates a beloved spot on Route 209 in Stone Ridge where ice cream has been served for nearly 70 years. She named the popular establishment Cherries Ice Cream Bar & Grill when she bought it 11 years ago, and she has just reopened its doors after a long winter break.
The modest-sized deli, tucked in between the trees, has indoor and outdoor seating. A steady stream of customers drops by for lunch or dinner, followed, naturally, by one of Reidy’s irresistible cones, sundaes or shakes. The menu blackboard above the cash drawer lists an extensive offering of hot and cold sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs, sides of this and that and daily specials, all whipped up behind the counter.
“It had always been an ice cream store, with some burgers and French fries,” she says. “People still ask about [former owners] Rose and Jurgen. They also did a lot of potato salad and some German foods they were famous for. We expanded our foods menu to do wraps, bigger sandwiches and hot foods.”
Customers can call ahead or order a meal online to save time. But the whole experience of enjoying ice cream defies “saving time” when the sun is out and a cone of the good stuff is melting in your hand and there’s no rush to be anywhere else. And although summertime is usually associated with such a scene, Reidy keeps Cherries open from mid-February to December.
“Everyone else before us took a longer winter break. We’ve established ourselves more like a year-round food place. We have eight or nine employees. I’ve been really lucky through the years to keep three full-time employees. Then we have part-time employees in high school and college that revolve in and out; most have been with us four or five years, for a long time. It’s a good job for them. They grew up in the area, as did their parents. We know them.”
Originally from nearby Rosendale, Reidy says that her favorite thing about having the business is serving this community. “I’m seeing things come full circle. When we first got here, there were some children that were super-little, they were 5 and 6; now they’re getting ready to graduate. And the kids who were graduating the first year we were here – now they’re starting to bring in their kids! I look at them and think, ‘Are you old enough to do that?’ They are! And within the next 11 years, those babies will be coming in. That cycle has been really cool for us to watch. And then also, just being here in the community, serving the things we think are fun – we’ve been well-received.
“The most challenging thing for me is the hours. We work a lot. I have two young children, and I’m lucky because we live next door. I love what I’m doing. That makes it easier. I can’t imagine having to work that hard without really loving what I do.
“I had always worked in restaurants and food service of some sort. I’d gone to school, but always fell back into food service. Then one day my dad said, ‘You know, Jurgen’s is for sale.’ It was called TJ Scoops at the time. I’d never made an ice cream cone in my life, or cooked food myself. But I knew how to run a line in general.
“I came up one summer and worked with the previous owners a bit. They taught me a lot. Then we had our closing and it was like, ‘Here you go!’ It was super-hard the first year. I didn’t know what I was doing. But I was good at customer service, and it worked out. My husband is a carpenter – and there’s always work to do on the property, but he’s not a ‘customer person.’ But I couldn’t do what I do without him. My brother works in refrigeration and electronics, so he’s helped me out that way.”
Cherries specializes in homemade ice cream cakes and cupcakes for all occasions. They offer full-service catering with giant party subs, wing platters and other hot entrées for graduations, funerals (“Somebody’s gotta do it,” she says) and even weddings. “We like to do things that are fun, like the sweet fries sundae! Or outlandish and creative, like the cherry bomb sundae that you can’t eat by yourself. How many random things can you put on a French fry and really make it work and be delicious and affordable? Fun is what we’re always going for.”
Cherries Ice Cream Bar & Grill, Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., 4162 Route 209, Stone Ridge; (845) 687-9121, https://cherriesstoneridge.com.